When I heard that Manute Bol had died the other day, I felt a certain twang of remorse. I had gotten to know Manute when he first came to this country, and found him to be a fun guy.
Manute played in the NBA for about ten years, known as a guy who was seven-foot-seven, skinny and tall, a guy who could block shots and hit three-pointers. He was odd.
I was going to Cleveland Sate University in 1983, a bad student but a very good gym rat. I remember going to the gym one night that spring, and seeing a guy who could dunk if he only rose two inches off the floor. I won the toss, and had the first pick, so I chose Manute for my team that night.
We became friends after that night. He was brought to Cleveland to be hidden for a year, before he was going to be going NCAA. But he had language issues. Darfur Dinka stuff.
So they put him in English classes, and he was quick. He would stop over my apartment and ask very pertinent questions about American football. I kept thinking that if I had to learn the Dinka language inside of three months, I’d have been lost.
The funniest thing about Manute was milk. He hated how we drank it cold. He kept telling me about how they would get it from the cow, in a bucket, and drink it straight from there. If I knew he was coming over, I would leave the milk out, and he loved having a warm glass.
By the fall of 1983, I asked Manute if he would be part of our intramureal team. He said sure. It was so much fun, having a 7-foot-seven guy, going against a Six-Foot-five guy. We had two games. The coach, who was trying to hide Manute, didn’t want him so playing with me. So he told Bol to stay away from me and others.
He was a great guy. RIP